Anne-Teresa Birthwright, a self-taught artist from Jamaica, is pursuing her PhD in development geography at the University of the West Indies, studying the impacts of climate and economic change on Jamaican farmers and coffee production systems.

Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Anne about her work:

Food Tank (FT): What originally inspired you to get involved in your work?

Anne-Teresa Birthwright (AB): Jamaica’s agricultural sector is mostly made up of small-scale farmers with less than five-acres of land. It’s a high risk livelihood, as the majority of the farms are rain-fed. With the progression and continuous erratic nature of climate change, farmers are being pushed towards new realities. The operations of the food system must also change to ensure food security and sustainability. One of the main reasons for developing the BCFN YES! Project- Surviving the Drought: An Irrigation Curriculum for Jamaica’s Small-Scale Farmers with my colleague, was the need to address farmers’ concerns in one of Jamaica’s primary agricultural areas.

FT: How are you helping to build a better food system?

AB: I believe in the advocacy of research. Research plays an important role in understanding the food system and those who are vulnerable within it. Research also offers an opportunity to bridge the divide between science and policy to engender change. It highlights the problems that need to be addressed or where interventions need to take place. My research has shown that farmers have to safeguard their livelihood against increasingly high capital investments, expensive farm inputs, and meager opportunities to participate at higher levels in the coffee value chain. The research also sheds light on seasonal food insecurity among these small-scale specialty coffee farmers.

Read the full interview about improving Jamaica's food system by Lauren Peller at Food Tank.